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World Tunnel Congress 2008 - Underground Facilities for Better Environment and Safety - India

Laboratory and field investigation on improved soil nails

Carla L. Zenti & Donatella Sterpi
Department of Structural Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy

Cristiano Bonomi
Elas Geotecnica S.r.l., Segrate (MI), Italy

SYNOPSIS: The stabilisation of underground excavation faces is often achieved by soil nailing, that
represents an efficient and economic method for their temporary support. The paper first focuses on a
preliminary series of laboratory tests on injections in a sand box, in both dry and saturated conditions, that
permit highlighting the characteristics of the grout columns. Then a traditional and an improved technique of
soil nailing are described and compared, on the basis of the strength measured from pull out tests on nails
grouted in a sandy gravel natural deposit and in a poor quality clay shale mass. In general, the improved
technique offers higher strength and a better control on the volumes of injected grout. In addition, its
performance is less dependent on the conditions of the site and on the quality of grout and injection, thus
leading to a more reliable result of the treatment.

1. INTRODUCTION Within this framework, the interest is focused
on both granular soils and weak or highly weathered
The soil nailing represents one of the most effective and fissured rocks, treated with injections of very
techniques for the stabilisation of slopes and surface fine cement grout and swelling cements [10,11].
excavations [1,2]. The technique is nowadays The behaviour is investigated at a laboratory
largely adopted also for the immediate stabilisation and at a field scale. In the first case, a series of
of the excavation face in underground constructions mechanical tests have been carried out on the
[3]. New materials and procedures have been materials used for injections and on small scale
proposed in recent years and efforts have been models of injections in coarse soils, in both dry and
devoted to reach a better knowledge on the saturated conditions. In the second case, the field
performance of the nailing systems. investigation involved pull out tests of nails in a
The term “soil nailing” is meant here as the sandy gravel natural deposit and in a clay shale
ground improvement technique consisting of a mass of poor quality.
series of bars, the “nails”, driven or grouted inside The field investigation allowed getting
drilled boreholes and closely spaced, that cross insights into the performance of two different
potential slip planes and stabilise the soil mass techniques for the temporary support of the
acting as tensile members. A soil nail remains excavation face. The first one is a traditional
unstressed until the soil movements mobilise reinforcement consisting of a fibreglass bar element
internal tensile forces, that are transferred to the embedded in fine cement based grouting. The
ground through friction along the interface. second technique, named Pressure Earth
Various issues have been addressed related to Reinforcement Ground (P.E.R. Ground®, patented
soil nails and, generally, to the ground improvement by Elas Geotecnica S.r.l., Italy), differs from the
by injections: the mechanical properties of soils first in the addition of an external sheath devised to
improved with grout injections [e.g. 4,5], the contain the injected grout. The volumes of injected
strength of single or multiple injections into grout were measured and the pull out strengths of
granular [6] or clayey soils [7], investigated by way the two nailing systems in the two different ground
of laboratory or field tests, and the overall were compared.
behaviour of a soil nailing system, simulated by
analytical or numerical methods [8,9].


can be carried out on samples recovered from volume of the shell. 1. equal to the test. due to the water of the mixture that is models may allow to assess the behaviour of grouts gradually absorbed by the sand mass. (c) grout injection in the shell.2. In this case the cm and height equal to 60 cm (Fig. keeping the profile adherent to the box’ wall.a).d).b). the shape of the grouting mixtures are not available and prior to in injection is drawn on the grid. (b) placement of the injection shell and box filling. a the diffusion of the water seeping out from the grout ruled grid has been drawn to measure the shape of mixture due to the preliminary condition of the grout column and the advancement of the wet saturation of the sand. such as the point load sand. The sand is compacted by vibrating the in shape in the two cases of dry and saturated sand. Furthermore. laboratory tests on small scale the wet zone. is placed grout occurring in the second case might be due to within the box against the wall with the ruled grid the fact that the saturated soil is characterized by a (Fig. having side equal to 4 cm. boundary. to carry out two tests at a time and the sand surface (Fig. The grout columns. 2. The test diffusion of the grouting mixture in the sand procedure has been defined in order to have a visual involves a larger mass than in the case of injection inspection of the injection during its evolution with in dry sand. for a length of 5 cm each minute (Fig.c) while the same shell is pulled up stepwise. 1. In the case of dry tests or simpler strength tests. 1. then the extension of situ investigation. according to a (a) (b) (c) (d) Figure 1. 1. appear different in the box. Test procedure on laboratory models: (a) pouring of the first sand layer. The box is eventually filled with sand up greater permeability and therefore the injected grout to 40 cm.b).a). When field data on the performance of the injected At the end of the process. is drawn at injected in soil deposits. box and tamping at the top surface. to have an immediate comparison between the At the same time it is not possible to measure different responses. Two identical boxes have out to be not sufficient to fill the injection hole up to been assembled. completely fills the injection the injections. the volume of injected grout. of internal size equal to 30x30 sand in saturated condition. To this purpose a plexiglas transparent box A series of tests has been carried out also on has been designed. The larger diffusion of the injection shell. and then poured within the shell SCALE MODELS (Fig. compression given time intervals (Fig. LABORATORY TESTS ON SMALL standard procedure. paying attention to avoid sand leakage by tends to spread more easily within the mass. as recovered from the First. On one of the box’ walls. hole. A U-shaped as shown in Figure 3. (d) pull out of the shell 264 . 2. A fine cement based grout is prepared. a 10 cm high layer of dry sand is placed boxes one week after the injections. and the volume of injected grout turns time within the deposit.

such as point load. As an example Table 1 summarises the results 3. 3 2 1 (a) dry sand (b) saturated sand Figure 2. located in the upper U. new injection tests have been Note that the coefficient K. which has been 3. bottom pictures: appearance of the injected hole after completion of the procedure Once the setting of the grout has been of the measured values from the mean is more identified in the sand deposit by way of the limited. compression and creep tests [12]. Top pictures: extension of the wet boundary with time (“1”: 30 minutes after completion. for each of them. transparent wall. that is a very low value compared with characterization. The strength σc.1 Description of the site and of soil nailing divided into two specimens (upper and lower) and. sand box. located in Northern Italy. the tests were carried out at box. “2”: 18 hours. traditional and improved soil nails in natural The grout column extracted from the saturated deposits of different nature. ratio between the performed using the same box and pouring the grout point load index Is and the uniaxial compressive in a cylindrical shell at the centre of the box. uniaxial the values that are usually assumed for intact rocks. the ground surface of a deposit of heterogeneous but it seems more homogeneous. has been subjected to three point Two series of field tests were carried out with the load tests. central C and purpose to evaluate the pull out strength of lower L third of the specimen. compared with the one from the dry sand In the first case. since the variation coarse soil. PULL OUT TESTS ON SITE obtained from a grout column. 265 . was calibrated on the basis of some samples recovered from these tests have been compression test and resulted in the range between directly subjected to tests for the mechanical 14 and 16. “3”: 25 hours). The soil can be basically classified as sandy gravel [13]. offers a lower average compressive strength.

Uniaxial compressive strength from point load tests on grout columns σC AVERAGE SAMPLE ID (MPA) (MPA) U 24. Grout columns recovered from the injections Table 1.09 266 . the rock The rock mass consists of dark grey clay shales.40 U 15.15 Lower specimen C 12.04 13.77 Dry sand L 14.29 Lower specimen C 34.77 Upper specimen C 17.75 24.81 Dry sand L 32. (a) in dry sand (b) in saturated sand Figure 3. From the characteristics listed in Table 2.18 Upper specimen C 13.11 U 14.28 18.58 Saturated sand L 12. mass is classified as poor. of an excavation face in weak rock in Central Italy.76 Saturated sand L 15.27 U 7.45 13. The second series of tests involved the nailing crossed by fractured and weathered strata of marl.

the borehole is drilled simultaneously plate placed against the ground surface. 4. thus reducing the risk of tube is perforated with holes along the lateral damage of the fibreglass tube. Ground®). flowing Given increments of axial tensile load are applied to through the holes. inserted in a previously drilled borehole cylindrical case.b). Ground ®) 267 . 5). fills the gap between the tube and the nail by an electrically operated hydraulic jack the membrane (P. The grout is injected at application of the load (Fig. 4. The test follows a surface and it is wrapped in a flexible sheath sealed load controlled procedure. The case permits an low pressure using a small pipe at the tube side extension of the lateral surface that carries the (Fig. similar to what is at the head of the tube (Fig. In the second system (PG) the fibreglass applied load by friction. 60 mm in surface or wall is inserted into a protective diameter.E. The grout is prescribed for pull out tests of rock bolting [15].2 Set up and procedure for pull out tests considered at both sites: the first (TV) is the one customarily adopted for the reinforcement of tunnel The fibreglass tube head extending from the ground faces and consists of a fibreglass tube. Detail of the head of the nails tested on site: (a) simple fibreglass tube (TV).E. and (b) fibreglass tube with external sheath (P. driving a casing.a). which is used as gripper for the later filled by cement grout. injected directly within the tube and. that is removed after the placement of the nail and before grouting. smooth surface 12 Groundwater condition Damp 11 Joint Orientation Unfavourable -7 Rock Mass Rating RMR 21 Class number IV Description Poor Geological Strength Index GSI* = RMR89 -5 27 * where RMR89 is obtained by fixing the rating of the parameter on the groundwater condition to 15 and the parameter on the joint orientation to zero (a) (b) Figure 4.R. Two different types of soil nail have been 3. Rock Mass Rating and classification according to Bieniawski [14] Parameter Range of Values Rating Uniaxial compressive strength (MPa) 0-5 1 Drill core quality RQD (%) 0 0 Spacing of the discontinuities (cm) <5 4 Condition of discontinuities Wavy. Table 2.R. In presence of and the reaction force is transferred to a stiff steel granular soil.

for both nailing systems and in of completeness. but along the borehole. some cases stabilisation. considering that the short time days after injection. 268 . this uniformity is not ensured in traditional soil nails. the In addition. This effect is differential levelling. Conversely.b) the grout. different time intervals from the grout Figure 6 shows a comparison between the pull injection have been considered for the pull out. discussed soil. due to local effects such as large voids or heterogeneities in the ground. In out tests of traditional (TV) and improved (PG) the following the results referring to 2 and 7 days nails on weak rock and on granular soil. Pull out test set up and devices The values of pressure are controlled by traditional nails (Fig. due to the natural hardening of the grout. Figure 5. produces a rather uniform better performance in both materials: the pull out reinforced bar even within a coarse heterogeneous maximum loads are higher than those obtained with soil. with conditions results in a poor repeatability of the tests constant applied load. 4. with time. flowing through regularly spaced holes and In general. the pull out maximum load increases With improved nails (Fig. such as during the excavation of a occurred of unexpected response of the nail. the improved nails have shown a confined by the sheath. 3. The lack of control on the boundary of the load and the second two minutes after. 2 and 7 will be discussed. In this case. since the scattering of the relevant information for any immediate provision of results was rather limited. However. one minute after unloading. of the nail head are measured by optic the columns largely differ each other. mostly tunnel face.a). Eventually. to control the sheath of improved nails to the grout diffusion occurrence of permanent sliding of the whole nail allows to control the injected volumes of grout. Only one representative result response of the ground reinforcement represents a is reported for each case. the first at the application injections. while the displacements the grout diffusion depends on local heterogeneities. in fact. at the same time it does not allow to fill cavities that Due to the time dependence of the grout may exist in very coarse soils. the confinement exerted by the residual displacement is measured.3 Results of pull out test as shown in Figure 6 for 7 days tests in granular The results from tests on coarse soil. the tube is and in difficulties in the interpretation of the results. In these cases the variation from the mean values can reach 30-40%. since an analog manometer. unloaded and. elsewhere [13]. 4. properties. both materials. For each load increment two especially emphasized in the case of low pressure measurements are made. will be briefly recalled here for sake As expected.

2 DAYS TESTS 7 DAYS TESTS 350 350 300 300 250 250 force [kN] force [kN] 200 200 150 150 100 100 PG in clay PG in clay 50 50 TV in clay TV in clay 0 0 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 displacement [mm] displacement [mm] 2 DAYS TESTS 7 DAYS TESTS 350 350 300 300 250 250 force [kN] 200 force [kN] 200 PG 1 in granular soil 150 150 PG 4 in granular soil TV in granular soil 100 100 PG in granular soil TV in granular soil 50 50 0 0 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 displacement [mm] displacement [mm] Figure 6.c) and. Pull out tests on traditional (TV) and improved (PG) soil nails. this procedure might cause a dispersion of the injection seems well distributed to fill both the grout (Fig. even minor variations membrane and the fibreglass tube (Fig.b). shown in Conversely. the soil. even at low pressure. When operating in coarse (Fig. from the section of the bar. in clayey weak rock and granular soil The different mechanical response between in the fluidity of the grout remarkably influence the traditional and improved nails could be explained quality of the injection and of the resulting column. 7. This is confirmed by an internal surface. with reference to their different structure. the sketches of Figure 7. with improved nails the injection. induces a continuous The target of the traditional nail is the filling of adherence between the sheath and the borehole the gap between the fibreglass tube and the borehole surface (Fig. 7. 269 . 7.a). Possibly. the grout should also fill investigation on the reinforcements as they appear the tube by flowing through the open bottom and after excavation: the bar is shaped as the borehole rising towards the head.d). In addition. 7.

such as swelling grouts. Although improved soil nailing systems on granular soil and this condition has not been controlled on site. Tests on the performance of membranes of are gratefully acknowledged. interface between the sheath and the borehole Cividini and the technical assistance by Mr.D. improved nails. 270 . Compared with the traditional one. that is investigate the performance of traditional and lower for an injection in a saturated soil. impervious boundary for the injection. This provision allows saving material for conditions. it setting. the external sheath permits process during setting. The pull out strength of the first author to fulfil the requirements for the Ph. interface between the reinforcement and the surface have been taken under consideration. (a) (b) (d) (c) Figure 7. starting with of the borehole. The presence of the membrane ensures an the behaviour of the two systems. Nailing systems: sketches of traditional (a) and improved (b) nails. that ensures continuous adherence at the materials for injections. laboratory tests aimed at investigating the swelling In addition. and the mechanical behaviour after injections and. From the test results can assume that the site is usually partially or fully some comments can be drawn on the differences in saturated. The guidance of Prof. CONCLUSIONS Finally. 5. the might contribute to the better performance of the improved soil nails offer a higher pull out strength. improved nail recovered after the test (c) and section detail (d). Iscandri surface. probably due to the homogeneity of the grout In the prosecution of the research new columns. and this From a mechanical point of view. various textures would be required in order to highlight the influence of the interface on the pull out strength. the performance of the improved soil nailing is less ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS dependent on the quality of the grouting mixture The work is part of a research carried out by the and of the injection. can be cost effective. under particular field conditions. one on highly weathered rock. in particular the volume controlling and limiting the volumes of injected variation under partially or totally confined grout. from laboratory tests the conditions of saturation seem to influence both the geometry and Laboratory and field tests have been carried out to the compressive strength of the injections. improved nail mainly depends on the pressure degree in Seismic and Geotechnical Engineering at exerted by the grout and on the characteristics of the the Politecnico di Milano.

Numer. A three.G. Computers and University (Japan). From 2003 she 4. he has been commercial director and responsible for the Italy. Int. 399. Carla L.R.K. in the realisation of tunnels. 187-208.Y. In 1998 Improvement in nailing systems for coarse soil. underground support. Anal. in Seismic and Geotechnical Mech... (Fang. 14th Int.G..W. Hamburg. calibration of constitutive models based dimensional elastoplastic finite element analysis of a on laboratory tests. (2003). Politecnico di Milano from 2007. (2008).. (2006). Engineering at Politecnico di Milano from 1999. European market of a multinational chemical company for 13.Q. excavation. Zenti graduated in Architecture in 2002 from Politecnico 3. Structural Engineering in 1993 from 7. Behaviour of specialized in design and execution of uncemented sands and grouted sands before peak in situ tests furnished with strength. Rock Bolt Anchor Pull Test. (1982). Soil-nail pullout interaction in loose fill materials. of various construction sites involved 11. laboratory tests such as experimental investigation on the seismic behaviour of connection in precast structures or 6. 29.K. Engineering in 2006. Recent development ground 15.J. Chemical grouting and soil Cristiano Bonomi studied as surveyor.G. 1. Geotech.. Lee G. Junaideen.). J.. ASTM D 4435-04 (2004). C. Dumontet H. Standard Test Method for improvement tech. 1717-1733. ASCE Int. Ph.D. internal erosion. B. Soil and Foundations. Effective properties of a cemented or an mechanical behaviour of swelling materials and soil injected granular material. Homogenization framework for three. she specialized also in (2005).. Shin H. & Elias. Lim J.D.J. Yue. Bouchelaghem F. L. stabilization. Atmatzidis D. Ng C. J. Bored tunnelling di Milano (Italy). A. Au S.S. to he started up ELAS. Laboratory and field investigation Pellegrino tunnel (6 km tunnel in on the behaviour of swelling grouts for underground fractured rock). of Engineering. 115 (12). where she obtained in the urban environment. she 9. Bieniawski. & Lee.D. Juran. Jafari M. ed. Meth. Mair. Switzerland. Benhamida A. which he is. 43(4). in Geotechnical into clay.H. Basel. Proc. ed. a company specialized in appear on Proc.J. 29. In: Foundation BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE AUTHORS Engineering Handbook. Soga K. Pradhan.. Z.4. 6: 238- Donatella Sterpi graduated in 247. R. 81-90.J. Bonomi C. New York. Between 1995 and 1997 she followed an 8. experimental research on small scale dimensional parametric study of the use of soil nails models of shallow tunnels at Kobe for stabilising tunnel faces. 1-24. 673-697. Engng.. Symp. Politecnico di Milano. Eng. Choi Y.. tunnel driven with 3 m diameter TBM and final tunnel) and ANAS San 12. manager director. Meth. Anal. 2. Technical Consultant of Laboratory Testing Material of 5.. 271 . (1989).L. Dano. Schlosser.W. 868-905. Vol. Bae G. Thesis. Geomech. such as Injection of fine sands with very fine cement grout. (Balasubramaniam. (1997). since then. Géotechnique. From 1991 to 1998. Bolton D.N. creep. & Hicher.. Tham. stability of surface and underground excavations). Engineering in 1997..L. Engineering Rock Mass Classification. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. (2006). R. 3rd Edition.A..T.F. I. consolidation and shotcrete. problems (strain localization.). nailing and she has been involved in various kinds of Geomech. Krizek R. revised and expanded.. Karol R. Int. 54. Numer. Conf.. H. 10. Soil a Ph. Proc. P. Advances in Civil reinforcement and consolidation of incoherent soils. Z. Found. S. Assistant Professor of Geotechnical Geotechnics. Zenti C. 29. Metro Milano line 3 (6 km pilot ASCE J. C. (2002). Geomech. From 1981 to 1991 has been director Marcel Dekker A. specialized in mechanical behaviour of natural and (2005). 13-19. where Laboratory investigation of multiple grout injections she obtained a Ph. and application of the finite element grouted pipe-roofing reinforcement method for method to the analysis of various phenomena and tunnelling. 8th Inter.S..REFERENCES 14. Ground anchors and soil nails in retaining structures. Testing Materials. F.M. (1989).T. reinforced soils. 2nd ed. (2003). Sicilia C. J. (2004). 2353-2385. V. Zebovitz S..Y. FRP structural application.. certification. Famagusta (North Cyprus). Behaviour and design of soil nailing. Int. American Stardard 413. & Taylor. Politecnico di Milano (Italy). Sterpi D. Zenti C. (1991). Congr.K.